An Emission Control Study That May Actually Do Some Good

The family of a dear friend of mine was invited to China on a cultural visit. She said that the most striking thing about visiting The Middle Kingdom was the shabby hygiene. Many of the people there didnt have access to the technology that we take for granted, and so lived at a more primitive level.

But the one thing that bothered her the most was the smell. Besides the open sewers that were common in every city, the air became filled with smoke at meal times as people burned whatever they could to cook their food.

This news story reports that a team of researchers led by Chandra Venkataraman of the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay have discovered that soot and other particulates are a greater factor in potential climate change in south Asia than greenhouse gasses. The best way to avoid any future problems would be to introduce more advanced ways to cook a meal.

This is hardly surprising, considering my buddys tales of the conditions when she visited. One thing that is surprising is the news article itself. The author, Randolph E. Schmid, makes an effort to write an even-handed account. No mention of the Kyoto Protocols or the US reaction to them is anywhere to be found.

Id have to say that it certainly sounds like a good idea if the Chinese make an effort to upgrade their cooking technology. It would make the air in the region easier to breathe, if nothing else.

8 thoughts on “An Emission Control Study That May Actually Do Some Good”

  1. James;

    I don’t know where your friend was, but most city people us LP gas or something like butane for cooking. But by most, I mean maybe 60-75%. Unfortunately, every city has zillions of migrant workers who do the construction work, camped in hut-villages throughout the cities during a project. They’re often not wired for electricity, and I don’t suppose the pay allows for buying compressed gas bottles, so they burn whatever is handy, and that means anything that will light. It’s not really the technology that’s lacking, it’s a social-economic difference.

    Construction workers don’t earn a teacher’s wage here, or half a lawyer’s. It’s more like 1/4 a teacher’s pay, so cast-off tires, paper, etc. are barbecue fuel.

    The waste disposal system is another subject, but yes, The People’s Republic should hold up civil engineering for the heroic profession it is. 1.3 billion people generate a lot of … waste.

    Sam (website down for server change)

  2. Saying “if the Chinese make an effort” is almost an oxymoron, since it treats the Chinese as a disciplined bloc. China is in a non-violent but near-anarchic state at the best of times, once you get away from the centers of government control. A nation where pangolins are kept in cages outside restaurants is not filled with people who will flinch at the burning of a castoff tire.

  3. Unfortunately, every city has zillions of migrant workers who do the construction work, camped in hut-villages throughout the cities during a project.

    If she received an erroneous impression that’s probably why. Her family was part of a government-arranged tour that viewed all of the projects that showed how advanced the country is becoming. Like Three Gorges Dam and other big construction projects.


  4. Some solutions can make the problem worse. Most of Mexico City’s killer smog is caused by millions of leaky LP gas cylinders/connections that are the near-universal source of cooking and heating fuel. So switching from smokey wood and dung fires caused (more and maybe worse) pollution.

    That said, ground level air quality is one of the most pressing issues in developing countries, and if 1 percent of the effort that is now spent argueing for (and against) the Kyoto treaty were spent instead on this issue then milliosn of early deaths would be prevented, and hudnred of millions would live healthier and more productive lives.

    By some estimates, Africa looses more lives and productivity to resperatory diseases caused or worsened by poor indoor air quility than it does to AIDS.

    You won’t see much attention to this issue by the global policy elites/NGO’s, though. Not because they are indifferent to suffering, but because other issues (Global Warming, AIDS) have become part of a global morality/passion play.

    Fighting global warming makes elites all fuzzy inside AND lets them say bad things about the booogey man (‘western’ values, capitalism, Bush, etc.) without them actually getting their hands dirty by, you know, helping people.

    You ‘fight’ global warming at cushy conferences and forums. You improve indoor air quality by, first of all, spending a lot of time with very poor people to try to understand their problems and needs. How many Davos-ites (and western journalists) would be willing to do that?

  5. Good points. Also, there is little or no monetary payoff for NGOs that lobby for LDC technological advancement — which is like lobbying for economic growth. And there’s plenty of grant money and donations to be had for the NGO pioneers who risk life and limb to advocate marginal reductions in air pollution in the already-clean developed world.

  6. Most of enviromentalism is not about solving problems.

    Underground Fires Menace Land and Climate By ANDREW C. REVKIN, January 15, 2002

    A 1999 report by the Clean Coal Center of the International Energy Agency concluded that the biggest coal fires, in China and India particularly, “make a significant global impact.”

    * * *

    And the coal fires in the United States are negligible compared with those overseas. In China’s rich northern coal belt, hundreds of underground fires are burning upward of 200 million tons of coal each year, about 20 percent of the nation’s annual production. The fires produce nearly as much carbon dioxide, the main gas linked to global warming, as is emitted each year by all the cars and small trucks in the United States.

  7. If Western environmentalists were to unclench their arms from around the Californian Redwoods just long enough to fly over Beijing, they’d come scurrying home to laud our EPA , Forest Services and the Dept. of the Interior.

    Man-made, treeless deserts surround most Northern Chinese cities.

    My Chinese roommate in college (ta shi cong zhong guo bei fan lai de ren) couldn’t believe how many large trees we have in America. He was truly impressed, and mystified, by our thick groves of Douglas Fir and Lodgepole Pine left standing along the highways of Washington State.


  8. Travel alerts should contain warnings. I was at Woodstock. Talk about not having a comfortable place to shit.

    And, in all of the Mideast you’re sent into HOME BATHROOMS that are nothing more than cemented floors with a pipe coming out a few inches from the ground; and two bricks to stand on. You’re supposed to balance yourself. Or even better do some form of Yoga sqat without falling over.

    You bet, Americans are more civilized than other folks. We have CHARMIN! (And, way back in the ancient 1960’s, if you traveled to france, you backed your own toilet paper. Failing that, you might as well wipe your ass with sand paper. Or dollar bills.)

    It’s not for nothing that a lot of Asians walk around in public wearing face masks. Well, now you know. Answers to questions you failed to ask your travel agents. I really do like to stay at home.

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